And then there were two.
The stage is set for Vanderbilt and Virginia to face off in the College World Series Finals at TD Ameritrade Field in Omaha, Nebraska—a best-of-three contest sure to captivate the nation.
This will be a battle of two extremely diverse teams. Virginia has been winning due to its stellar pitching rotation, allowing just a total of four runs in three games during bracket play. Vanderbilt's pitching staff hasn't quite been as stellar, but the team manages to manufacture runs to make up for any deficiencies on the mound.
Which style of play will prevail?
As we await the final answer to that question, let's take a look at the full series schedule, championship odds and predict how the series is likely to unfold.
|2014 College World Series Finals Schedule|
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|1||Mon., June 23||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|2||Tue., June 24||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|3*||Wed., June 25||8 p.m.||ESPN|
The full tournament bracket can be found at NCAA.com.
|2014 College World Series Title Odds|
Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Virginia's pitching has simply been phenomenal.
According to Brandon Speck of Fox Sports, the Cavaliers pitching staff owns an impressive 0.55 ERA while in Omaha, allowing just two runs over 33 innings. The bullpen gave up three over 30 tournament innings.
Talk about a well-rounded rotation.
Chances are, Virginia will go with Nathan Kirby in Game 1 against Vanderbilt. Aaron Fitt of Baseball America confirmed this assumption:
Kirby has been absolutely impressive this season, boasting a 9-2 record and 1.70 ERA over 17 games while allowing 26 runs against 108 strikeouts.
Virginia coach Brian O'Connor spoke with Speck about the series ahead:
I don't think there's any pressure. We've never been in this scenario before. Maybe if we had been in this situation multiple times before and hadn't done it. We're not really concerned about it. Were concerned about playing a good baseball game on Monday night.
I'll tell you, our first five or six years here, we were in an NCAA Regional every year and there were a lot of people saying, 'What does it take to get over the hump and get to Omaha?' We figured that out. This team isn't concerned right now with 'Do we need to get over the hump?' We're just concerned about coming out and playing tough and playing a good baseball game on Monday night.
As for Vanderbilt, the necessity to manufacture runs is at an all-time high against such a talented Cavaliers pitching staff.
After all, with Tyler Beede struggling on the mound recently—over 16.1 tournament innings pitched he's given up 10 runs for a 5.51 ERA—offense can be expected to give the Commodores the best chance to succeed.
However, according to Nick Cole of The Tennessean, Vanderbilt hasn't committed to a starter just yet:
Vanderbilt has actually fared better offensively than Virginia throughout the tournament.
The Commodores are batting .297 as a team with 101 hits, 20 doubles, 24 stolen bases and 63 total runs. They'll need all of that to come together against Virginia's solid pitching.
So, it comes down to this: Can Vanderbilt generate enough offense against the Cavaliers to take a best-of-three series?
The way things have looked lately, that's a major long shot.
Prediction: Virginia in two